I am Eddie Treviño, Jr. . . Mayor of Brownsville.
Good morning, Chairman Inhofe and Senator Cornyn... distinguished guests... Welcome to the Lower Rio Grande Valley!
On behalf of the City of Brownsville and its citizens, I wish to convey our deep appreciation for your taking the time to visit us.
Through our partnerships with TxDOT, the FHWA, and others, the City of Brownsville and Cameron County have been able to accomplish some great things in recent years. In May 1999, the Veteran’s International Bridge at Los Tomates opened for business. This facility has exceeded its projected traffic and toll revenues.
Unlike many parts of the United States, South Texas has a very young population base. Even with our developing economy...we are having a difficult time finding enough job opportunities for our young people. I would note that Brownsville led Texas in job creation in the 2nd quarter.
We are experiencing rapid growth in our MPO area. For example...traffic volumes are increasing between 5% to 6% each year on many of our roadways. Volumes will double in an 18-20 year period. Congestion problems will become intolerable if we don’t move ahead on making improvements.
It would be easy to ask for your help for the completion of any one of 10-12 new projects that we sorely need in Brownsville. Each project is being designed to address critical infrastructure needs in our community. Some of these projects will help alleviate severe congestion problems. For example, roadway improvements are needed for the following thoroughfares:
Ø East Loop
Ø West Loop (From F.M. 3248 to E. 6th Street)
Ø Morrison Road, (to old Port Isabel Road)
Ø West Morrison Road
Ø Widening of Robindale Road
Ø Construction of Pineda Boulevard
Ø Widening of Old Port Isabel Road
Ø Establishment of the U.S. 281 Connector, (to connect F.M. 511 and U.S. 281)
Ø Extension of Magnatek Drive to S.H. 48
Ø Rehabilitation of Price Road
Ø Widening of Coffee Port Road
Instead...I want to take this opportunity to ask for some assistance on another important matter. TxDOT, with federal assistance and help from the City of Brownsville, has completed improvements on U.S. 77 that meet interstate standards. Everyone here would acknowledge that U.S. 77 is a designated leg of the future I-69. We are currently not receiving interstate maintenance monies for U.S. 77.The current federal law does not allow for such expenditures until U.S. 77 connects to an existing interstate.
The City of Brownsville bought the land that was used for the Expressway extension to the border. We have done our part. Now it is up to the federal government to help with this issue.
Well...let me assure you that we don’t believe that this oversight is due to malicious intent. However, this situation represents a very unfortunate oversight. It needs to be amended. Under the current language of the applicable federal legislation...our Expressway has to be fully improved for 100 miles northward to connect to the Interstate System near Robstown, Texas. At that time, the Secretary of Transportation could designate U.S. 77 as part of I-69.
I suggest to you...that everyone in this room will be much older when that occurs. That’s why we need your help to change this provision of the law.
What is the purpose of I-69? One of the purposes of the interstate is to handle NAFTA traffic. Well...we are already accomplishing that goal right here in Brownsville.
I suggest that the federal language on this matter needs to be amended. If a highway segment meets all interstate design standards, and said highway connects to a U.S. deep-water port or to a U.S. Port of Entry...then the Secretary should be able to designate that highway as part of the interstate system. We should not continue to be penalized for being located here on the border...we are some distance from Robstown. The Port of Entry represents a huge federal and local investment, aside from the highway.
In other words...Brownsville should be treated as the gateway to Mexico, Latin American and Asia. Please help us change the statutory language on these matters. We have met our responsibilities for building this part of I-69 and therefore, it deserves federal recognition and support. Brownsville has the only major seaport in the U.S. without an interstate connection. We realize that F.M. 511 does not meet current interstate design standards. But when it does meet those standards, as U.S. 77 does (today)…it should be accepted as a part of I-69.
Thank you for your attention. We do appreciate your time spent with us here today.